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Private: Teaching Reading: 3-5 Workshop

Teaching Diverse Learners Extend Your Knowledge | Teaching Diverse Learners

Examine the Topic

Students with diverse backgrounds and learning needs require support in learning and applying strategies for reading and writing. This support is critical for successful learning and for developing the motivation necessary to succeed. Read the following statements on scaffolded instruction. Think about how these statements relate to your own classroom instruction, and any questions you have about teaching diverse learners.

Scaffolding is a way of actually helping students understand what it is you want them to know and do and to rehearse it along with you from the point of doing very little–they’re observing, watching you as the expert and they are the novice–to taking on more and more responsibility, to a point where they are working on their own. By the time they get to do it on their own in the scaffolded process, they have some idea of what’s expected and what to look for.

–Kathryn Au


Children often need concentrated instructional support when they need to learn important skills and strategies that they would have difficulty discovering on their own. The gradual release of responsibility model offers such support. In general, the model describes a process in which students gradually assume a greater degree of responsibility for a particular aspect of learning. During the first stage, the teacher assumes most of the responsibility by modeling and describing a particular skill or strategy. In the second stage, the teacher and students assume joint responsibility; children practice applying a particular skill or strategy, and the teacher offers assistance and feedback as needed. Once students are ready, instruction moves into the third stage, in which students assume all, or almost all, of the responsibility by working in situations where they independently apply newly learned skills and strategies. This gradual withdrawal of instructional support is also known as scaffolded instruction because ‘supports’ or ‘scaffolds’ are gradually removed as students demonstrate greater degrees of proficiency.

Mazzoni, S. and L. Gambrell. “Principles of Best Practice: Finding the Common Ground.” In Best Practices in Literacy Instruction, 15. New York: Guilford Press, 2003.


At any point in time, teachers should scaffold instruction enough so that students do not give up on the task or fail at it, but not scaffold so much that students do not have the opportunity to actively work on the problem themselves.

Adapted from Clark, K. and M. Graves. “Scaffolding Students’ Comprehension of Text.” The Reading Teacher 58, no. 6 (March 2005): 571.



Consider how you scaffold reading and writing instruction. Then write your answers to the following questions:

  • What strategies do you demonstrate/model to assist students during reading and writing?
  • What kinds of support can you provide to students as they practice literacy strategies?
  • How does this support vary when working with your strong, grade-level, and struggling readers and writers?
  • How can you use the gradual release of responsibility model in your instruction across the curriculum?

Tips for New Teachers: Supporting Struggling Readers

Children who struggle in reading often find it difficult to select and to sustain interest in appropriate books for independent reading. Here are some suggestions for promoting independent reading and reading fluency with your struggling readers.

    1. Create a classroom library that contains books suitable for a wide range of interests and reading levels. Reading levels should range from at least two years below to at least two years above grade level.
    2. Provide nonfiction texts in your classroom library. These are often of high interest and contain text features and pictures that support reading.
    3. Encourage independent reading with texts that are both easy and motivating. Students should be able to read them with 96 to 100 percent accuracy in word recognition.
    4. Encourage reading of books in a series.
    5. Lead brief book talks on easier books that may be of interest to the students. Students like to read books their teachers enjoy.
    6. Allow time for students to present their own book talks on favorite books.
    7. Provide opportunities to practice reading fluency with Reader’s Theater, poetry, choral reading, and books on tape (while following along).
    8. Check in with struggling readers each day to discuss and monitor their independent reading.
    9. Introduce students to authors who write across a range of reading levels (e.g., Cynthia Rylant, Lois Lowry, Tomi DePaola). Read the more difficult books during read-aloud time; encourage reading of the easier books during independent reading time.
    10. Allow time for independent reading every day, and observe struggling readers during this time. If they seem disengaged or off task, try to figure out why. Have they chosen a book that is too difficult or of low interest? If so, guide them in the selection of books that are both readable and interesting. Have they chosen an appropriate book but seem unable to get started on their own? If so, you might help by reading the first page or two, and then directing them to finish the chapter or selection on their own.

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Private: Teaching Reading: 3-5 Workshop


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation. 2006.
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